Île de Sein
An island where time stands still
An island where time stands still and which seems far from the madding crowd, the Île de Sein is a unique place. Isolated by a cluster of reefs and a mist of ocean spray, it was formerly submerged by the ocean. Like a barnacle clinging to a rock amid a stormy tempest, humans have resided here since the prehistoric era, with the ferocious environment sheltering them from the outside world.
Located at the gateway to the English Channel and obligatory passageway to maritime routes, the Île de Sein was alternately renowned for its wreckers and saviours. Its surroundings are teeming with reefs and wrecks, and the lighthouses of La Vieille and Ar-Men guide ships with their reassuring beams. Contrasting such an imposing natural character, generosity and solidarity define the island’s human presence.
It’s all there in its history, from 700 shipwreck survivors being welcomed in 1796 on an island facing shortages, or the 150 sailors and fishermen setting sail for England at the call of General De Gaulle in the Second World War. Facing adversity, the island’s residents pull together, like how their little white houses with their cute coloured shutters seem to cling to the narrow streets.
One of the interesting things you may find are women who still wear the “jibilinenn”, a black headdress originally worn for mourning and adopted during the last cholera epidemic in 1886. Another interesting fact is that the Île de Sein is exempt from any property tax, a meagre compensation when one considers the harshness of island life. An old proverb goes: “Qui voit Sein voit sa fin” (Whoever sees Sein shall see their end). Yet don’t worry – the one thing you’ll find today more than anything else is authenticity.